Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year, 2009 : 2 - Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

"Two Suns is exactly the sort of music that evokes its own imagery and emotion by simply letting its aural landscape wander though a vacant ear...Take “Glass”. As Khan sings about a dream in which she’s made out of the stuff, it’s a track that wraps itself in darkness among its own sparsely ornate musical world of driving, tribal percussion, creeping synths and haunting vocals. Besides being one of the most evocative and powerful openers in recent memory, it’s perhaps the most fitting theme for an album that so thoroughly premised on its delicate and lavish mix of instrumentation and minimalism. Similarly, “Moon and Moon” chills with the frost of its own extraterrestrial namesake, it’s haunting piano lines draped delicately around Khan’s beautiful voice as choral ghosts creep their way in and around one of the most stunningly delicate songs on Two Suns’ lavish display. And just like everything to come, it’s where all the intricacies of Khan’s songwriting meet that allows Two Suns to shine at its most potent, letting the silences in between speak out in contrast to the drama of its own elaborate setup.

It’s an album that teeters on the edge of its own fractured, fickle, minimalism; threatening to collapse in on itself at any moment. In the hands of any lesser voice than Khan, all of Two Suns’ dramatic instrumental posturing may have well done just that. But with Khan’s voice acting as ether, it’s a complexity bound by the sound of a goddess at work. Yet even when tracks like “Glass” and “Moon and Moon” show off Khan at her most intimate, it’s when she’s at her most forceful that Two Suns leaps out from another ‘beautiful’ album to become a far more provocative and addicting listen. Duality be damned, lead single “Daniel” manages to break out of Two Suns’ light/dark dynamic to channel a sense of 80s synth-pop all the while cloaked within the mystery of Khan’s shadowy call for love. “Siren Song” also allows itself to gracefully slip in between her love of the delicate and commanding, with its climactic double-sweep being one of the most spellbinding and unnerving moments on all of Two Suns as she swoons with the sway of a storyteller behind a veil of strings: “it won't be long to erase your pain, and my broken heart to belong to your body, cause i'm evil, evil....”.

And perhaps more than anything it’s lyrical gems like that which make Two Suns such an absolute mine of wonder, as she sings about love: “I drove past true love once, in a dream, Like a house that caught fire, it burned and flamed” and loss: “When the fires came, the smell of cinders and rain perfumed almost everything, we laughed and laughed and laughed, and in the golden blue cryin' took me to the darkest place”. Its powerful stuff to go with an already powerful mix to work like an otherworldly charm. And for fans of the gothic Broadway musical, it’d be hard to go past the haunting brilliance of Khan’s duet with veteran the musical presence Scott Walker on closer “The Big Sleep”. Two Suns then is everything it could have been – a worthy follow up to Bat For Lashes’ Mercury nominated Fur & Gold… and so much more. Here and now, take a trip, you just may come out enchanted."

- Alex Silveri,

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